Parents want to help their kids be successful, but often fear they’ll teach them the wrong things, or teach them in the wrong way. Luckily, responsibility is something that can be taught by example and explanation as much as by enforcement of rules.


Learning Responsibility by Example

Parents are the best models for their child’s behavior, especially in the earliest years of development. They should express earnest interest in chores and go about their business without whining or frowning. Seeing shows of good humor alongside chores will help children associate responsibility with positive rather than negative feelings.

It is also beneficial to invite children to help with household chores and other responsibilities. This interaction helps them understand what to do, as well as reinforcing a positive aspect to the responsibility.


Learning Responsibility by Explanation

Kids want approval. They want to behave. They want to do well in the things their parents want them to do well in. If they act out or misbehave, there’s always a reason. Sometimes that reason is frustration born of the fact that they don’t know how to behave correctly.

That’s why explanations are so important. Sometimes it’s not enough to just show kids how to behave responsibly. Many times they don’t understand why a task is important, or perhaps even how to do that task correctly. In either case, explanations are crucial.

A child who not only understands how to do something, but why they should do it is a happy child. Children who misbehave, especially young ones, often don’t know why what they have done is wrong. If they learn how to correct their mistakes, they will most likely do so.


Learning Responsibility by Enforcement

Sometimes, of course, kids just won’t live up to the expectations placed upon them. At this point, parents must guide them to good behavior through enforcement of consequences for failures in responsibility.

Of course, parents should also make sure to give positive reinforcement for success. However, they should be wary of providing rewards too early on in a child’s development. Responsibility must be seen as an end in itself, not as an avenue to ulterior benefits.


In the End

Responsibility is a matter of modeling good behavior for one’s children. It is also a matter of explaining that behavior, and enforcing the consequences of that behavior, for better or for worse.